Fair Play

Reviewed by Andy Smart

This is the final novel in the Amanda Valentine trilogy, which is a pity as they're so good!

Bryce Petty son of an Australian baptist preacher and ex-head of a gay and lesbian television station who had disappeared a few weeks previously, is found dead in his apartment, shot multiple times; given the lethality of the first two rounds, “three seemed somewhat excessive”. Given the lawsuit which the station had just lost, and which had left him and others personally liable for the compensation his disappearance seemed to be easy to explain and to furnish Amanda with some very plausible suspects. Petty's dysfunctional family are also in the frame, from his doting preacher father through a neglected sister to the doormat mother.

To make life more complicated, junior detective Janine Harrison, now over her crush on Amanda, presents her with a rape case so unusual that it will be certain to make headline news when the details come out. To what extent should 'group solidarity' hold sway over rape and violence? On a personal level, Debby, Amanda's long-distance relationship is further away than normal filming in Africa. Amanda find herself wondering if she's really happy with the relationship as it stands or does she want give more commitment to her lover, and what does Debby really want?

I managed to decide correctly who had done it, but to be honest this was down to the limited suspect pool and guesswork rather than deducing the facts (and I had no real idea why they'd done it! All the suspects are plausible and all have motives, you may find yourself wanting some people not to have done it because you like them as characters. I also think that, like me, you'll find yourself mulling over the potential ramifications of the rape case, even though I think you'll agree that Amanda makes the right decisions. You'll enjoy the cat too :-)

There is a strong 'relationship' thread running through the book; Amanda and Debby, the Petty family, the rape triangle, and numerous other relationships both good bad and broken. The plot of the novel is driven by the way in which we relate to those around us, both the ones we know well and those we meet incidentally like the man with food poisoning that Amanda meets on the plane. My personal take is that Amanda both wants and fears relationships with responsibility in her private life as all her professional relationships as a police officer have high levels of that; her time is spent trying to resolve issues for those who have been wronged and ensuring that the right people are punished for those wrongs. She is also at an age where she's seen many of her friend's relationships go horribly wrong and fears that happening to her.

Like it's predecessors, it's a very good book. However I will miss Amanda...

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